Mushroom exports are a source of pride for Oman

Haider al Lawati

Oman’s flourishing agro sector includes the cultivation of mushrooms – a commercial activity dominated by a solitary Omani firm. Today, 90 percent of its mushroom production is exported overseas, and while it has faced some challenges on this front due to the flight disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic, it hopes that export levels will soon return to pre-pandemic trends.

Mushrooms are a healthy product.  They contain vitamin D, which contributes to reducing harmful cholesterol, and is thus recommended for those who not eat fresh meat.  Nutrients in mushrooms have benefits in tackling osteoporosis and strengthening teeth.  In particular, its ‘Omani’ brand of mushrooms is being well-received as a source of Vitamin D amid current lockdown measures when many people are confined to their homes and are not exposed to the sun, which is a natural source of the vitamin.

Established in October 1999, Gulf Mushroom Production Company was established in October is a public shareholding company specializing in the production, processing, and marketing of mushrooms.  Its high-tech Barka farm, covering an area of 80,000 sq meters, is the largest in the Middle East. Featuring 42 cold rooms for the cultivation of fresh mushrooms, the farm utilizes Dutch technology to produce various types of white and brown mushrooms using fertilizer sourced from its facilities at Thamrait in Dhofar Governorate.  The cultivation and processing is done in a setting governed by quality controls, involving the use of high-quality natural raw materials sourced from reputable suppliers, under the supervision of experts.

Besides the RO 30 million capital cost of the project, every aspect of its construction and operation is quality controlled. Workers wear special clothes, hygiene and handwashing are constant features, while the farms, processing rooms and labs are governed by quarantine measures aimed at keeping harmful organisms and pests away. Unpleasant odors associated with the use of fertilizer are carefully managed as well.

Last year, the company exported $20 million worth of fresh mushrooms to a number of Arab and Asian countries, including Singapore and Malaysia. These products are consumed by hotels and the tourism sector. Today, growing numbers of people are being aware of the health benefits associated with mushroom consumption, thanks in part to marketing campaigns conducted by the company in educational institutions, commercial centers and other venues.